While Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 had a successful launch, the software team isn't resting on its laurels. Product development on the platform continues apace with the future iterations of the enterprise resource planning software already being planned out. In the meantime, customers and partners are expected to stay engaged with the system and its developers as it continues to evolve. With another release on the horizon, though, Microsoft has taken a unique step in bringing its customers into the development process. The so-called Agile Customer Engagement initiative will likely be crucial as NAV changes over the course of the next few years.

An ACE in the hole
Announced back in December of 2014, the Agile Customer Engagement initiative is a forum for customers of Dynamics NAV and trusted partners to engage with developers and have an active hand in the development of the overall product. According to MS Dynamics World, ACE – which serves as a complement and not replacement to the previous Technology Adoption Program – coordinates directly with individual communities made up of specific users, usually subject matter experts from a customer or partner. It's integrated within NAV's agile development process, in essence making progress and changes rapid.

The purpose of ACE is to allow customers to have a direct impact on how the next iteration of the software is going to look. The SMEs that make up the ACE communities are likely to be bringing these features back to the businesses they serve, so they are expected to deliver results that directly benefit them. The process goes like this: Users receive new builds of the NAV software based on a specific feature they're assigned to. They give feedback and approval over each release, which spans two weeks. After they provide input, the development team continues working on the end product, with a new release being adjusted based on the information received.

And they will go to Corfu
In this manner, the ACE initiative for Microsoft Dynamics NAV has a specific agenda of being practically designed by end-users rather than simply guessing what their needs are. This is already playing out well with the next release of NAV, code-named "Corfu" after the western Greek city. Based on recent information that has been lifted from a press embargo, ACE communities have been formed around such features as an altered document management system, e-services, and a native workflow engine.

While Corfu is unlikely to be a full-fledged release like NAV 2015 was, it will come close. The agile development process has come to mean that many critical aspects of the software aren't being planned at all, as noted in another article from MS Dynamics World. Instead, users are guiding these elements over the course of production. That can lead to a more successful platform that is designed for users, by users. Many changes already being seen in community updates have been influenced by user feedback. The success of ACE is leading Microsoft to open up the program for more customers and partners for the next round starting in 2016.

To discuss Microsoft NAV solutions for manufacturing, join the Microsoft Dynamics NAV for Manufacturing LinkedIn group.